County comes out ahead thanks to publishing legal notice

Q: What do you think of this? I was covering commissioners’ court this morning when one of the commissioners touched on an under-appreciated benefit of legal notices. He was praising the county tax office on a successful tax sale that was due in part to the notices printed in my newspaper. 
The county realized more than $109,000, partly from the sale of property and partly from people who realized through the notice their family property was being sold and voluntarily came in and paid the taxes. 
When you consider how small a county ours is, you realize this sort of legal is a moneymaker, not an expense, for the county. Without the notices, only the courthouse insiders would have been at the sale to scoop up property at a huge discount to be resold later.

A: Thank you! This is a perfect example of the ongoing and persistent need for a newspaper of record that meets the state’s definition of a legal newspaper, found in Government Code Sec. 2051.044, titled, TYPE OF NEWSPAPER REQUIRED. 

Q: A candidate in our upcoming local election prepaid for a campaign ad. Somehow all of the copy we were furnished didn’t make it to the printed page. 
The candidate paid for 100 percent of the copy that was furnished to us. Is it better, with candidates, to do a make-good or a no-charge?

A: This is a classic example of why comparing furnished ad copy to what’s on your screen in prepress, and proofreading in general, are indispensable. I asked around and the consensus was that someone who pays for a campaign ad should be treated the same as you would as any other advertiser. We see the situation you describe as a make-good situation.

Q: Our city secretary brought in a public notice to cancel the May election. Does this need to run in the retail section of the paper or can it be run in our classified/legal section?

A: You can choose where to place the notice if the city wants to pay for a notice. The legal requirement only mentions posting at poll locations. The city, we feel, is wise to publish such a notice in your newspaper because the goal is to inform voters.
Also, it would be worthwhile to read what the Secretary of State’s Elections Division says about procedure in the cancellation of an election, at http://www.sos.state.tx.us/elections/laws/cancellation.shtml. Here’s what they say, in Q&A format:

Q: “What kind of notice must be given if the election is cancelled and no separate election is being held?”
A: “The law requires only that a copy of the action taken by the governing body be posted on Election Day at each polling place that would have been used in an election. You may simply post copies of the cancellation order on the polling place door. We have also been asked if you should amend the polling place notice in case you have cancelled one of several elections, so that voters know the polling place still has an election taking place inside; we agree. While it is not required, it would be helpful if you can interest your local media in running a spot on the radio or in the newspaper, to acquaint voters with the change in the law. This notice, like any other election notice, must be bilingual. See Ch. 272, Election Code.”

Q: I was looking for information on whether the state of Texas has any law pertaining to when a newspaper running candidacy announcements for political candidates (as far as a deadline for when those can be printed free of charge), and wondered if you could give me some direction? I have looked briefly through the election code, and nothing stuck out, but I might not be searching for the correct verbiage.
A: The First Amendment precludes any state or federal law that would limit when a newspaper can or can’t publish information, including candidacy announcements. It can be troublesome for a newspaper, in the run-up to any election day, when one candidate tries to get in what amounts to the last word by submitting a campaign ad for publication when there is no time left for the opposing candidate to respond. You can get into squabbles over fairness/equal treatment.
TPA members have shared thoughts on situations like that. One shared thought was to cut off campaign advertising as soon as early voting starts. Another one was not to run any unpaid announcements from candidates, because if you do, readers might think the newspaper is endorsing a candidate that does not pay for something. Another is to allow each candidate one free announcement by the end of the candidate filing period, and announcements must be the same number of column inches, with the same size mugshot, and the same font, style of headline and the same priority placement in the newspaper. You can see many variations during election season if you participate in the TPA newspaper exchange. Have you tried asking your fellow publishers via the TPA publishers’ listserver? If you do, you’ll probably get a lot of helpful input.

Q: What are Texas newspapers using for barcodes these days?

A: If you ask fellow publishers what they are using for barcodes and QR codes, several are sure to respond quickly and offer advice on services that have worked well and perhaps some that you might want to avoid using. I recommend that you join the TPA publishers’ listserver. It can turn into your most valuable resource on any question you might have that pertains to the vast array of responsibilities you shoulder in running a community newspaper. Email Mike Hodges, mhodges@texaspress.com to join the publishers listserver.